Volume 61 Number 60 
      Produced: Fri, 07 Dec 2012 11:58:43 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Authentic Judasim 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Katonti (2)
    [Gilad J. Gevaryahu  Orrin Tilevitz]
Mechitzah (3)
    [Stu Pilichowski  Orrin Tilevitz  Chana Luntz]
Praying at home/Talking in shul (2)
    [Harlan Braude  Orrin Tilevitz]
Status of Masorti 
    [Katz, Ben M.D.]


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 5,2012 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Authentic Judasim

In MJ 61#58, Ari Trachtenberg wrote: 

> Marshall Gisser wrote (MJ 61#57):

>>  ... Even one making a single change suffices to deny 
>> God's words, and is no longer considered as following Torah.

and then points out that:

> Our modern halachic tradition does not take a literalist view to the Torah
> and the divergence in understanding of the complex oral tradition should not
> be so easily dismissed.

Absolutely. Of course, what conditions that is the interpretation of Rabbis
through the methodology of the Oral Law with a variety of other influences
including, as I and others have pointed out over the years, society's practices
and norms, i.e., modernism. 

So, perhaps it's not a question so much or as much of what is Reform Judaism but
rather who is a Rabbi and better, who is your Rabbi.

Of course, that might set off another discussion of Litvak vs. Hassidic, Modern
Orthodoxy vs. Hareidi, Ashkenaz vs. Sfrad, Sfard vs. Edot HaMizrach, and so forth.
Yisrael Medad


From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <gevaryahu@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 4,2012 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Katonti

Martin Stern (MJ 61#59) asks the following:

> A friend pointed out to me this morning that the word 'katonti' (Ber. 32:11)
> was read with an azla geresh, yet in his chumash it carried a revia. I
> checked various editions and found that some had the one and others the
> other. This does not make any difference to the meaning, even though the
> former is a weaker disjunctive than the latter, but does change its musical
> expression. Minchat Shai does not seem to say anything about this. Can
> anyone help sort out this problem?

What you have here is ta'am say why the meaning is "I was getting smaller"
although technically it means I am not worthy. 

The ta'am "revia" in Ashkenazik melody has a declining sound, and hence the
transformation. Likewise, many hazzanim will match the sound to the word
meaning. An example is "kol demama dake" will be whispered; "tze'aka" will be
screamed; "re'ada" will sound like a shaky voice e.s.v.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 5,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Katonti

Martin Stern points out (MJ 61#59) that in some editions of the chumash 
katonti is with an azla geresh and in other with a revii.

The Leningrad codex has an azla geresh and no footnotes indicating any variants,
and it seems that none of the manuscripts R Breuer looked at in preparing his
Tanach (which attempts to reconstruct the missing portions of the Aleppo Codex,
supposedly the most reliable source of the taamei hamikra) has a revii. There
is also a 10th century chumash online at the Hebrew University website that has
an azla geresh.

page 45.

However, the revii variant is not necessarily recent: it appears in a 1482
chumash on the Hebrew University website at 

page 34 

(although not in the contemporaneous Lisbon Tanach). IMHO, the variant--which I
have seen in German chumashim-- is an invention of an imaginative printer who
could not believe that "katonti" is properly accompanied by a trop that rises in


From: Stu Pilichowski <cshmuel@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 4,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Mechitzah

My unscientific survey of modern minyanim has found that where the women 
"care" they will band together and make their voices heard on the 
architecture and layout of a bet knesset.

That means:

1. A halachik mechitza that was designed to allow the women to hear what's 
going on - either porous material or actual holes as part of the design.

2. The women's section itself may not be in the heavens or some out of the 
way spot, but share, as much as is practically possible, the davening space 
with the opposite sex.

3. A halachik mechitza that may be opened to hear the sermon, bar / bat 
mitzvah speech, announcements, and guest speakers (if they don't actually 
walk into the men's section should the talk/lecture take place following 

4. A halachik mechitza that may be opened to allow entrance for the sefer 
torah while it is making its rounds.

If you care enough you will work hard enough to initiate change.

Stuart Pilichowski
Mevaseret Zion

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 4,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Mechitzah

Ben Katz wrote (MJ 61#59):

> Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 61#56):

>> Orrin Tilevitz writes (MJ 61#55):

>>> That responsum explicitly assumes that women attended synagogue. But 
>>> is there any basis for that assumption?

>> Well, Hannah attended Mishkan [Tabernacle] at Shiloh (I Samuel 1), but Michal
>> stayed at a window (I Samuel 6:16).

> There is more evidence than that. 

> Avodah zarah 38a-b implies that women attended synagogue with the same
> regularity as the bathhouse; make of that what you will! :-)

> Sotah 22a shows that Rabbi Yochanan is not surprised that a woman goes to
> synagogue every day, just that she is not going to her neighborhood synagogue.

The question I posed (later answered by someone else) was not whether women
attended davening in the time of Bayit Rishon, Bayit Sheni or in Talmudic times.
It is whether women attended davening at the time mechitza-less shuls in Israel
were built, which is a lot later.

BTW, I can testify the notion of a mechitza is still under attack in some
quarters. For example, in the shul I'm involved with in Manhattan's upper west
side, the ezrat nashim has always been the balcony, and we are under periodic
pressure, going back at least 20 years, to have the women come downstairs and
sit behind a minimal mechitza. Acoustics and seeing the action are not at all
the issue; women upstairs in front can see and hear better than men in the back
downstairs. Another local synagogue caved in several years ago.

From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 4,2012 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Mechitzah

I wrote (MJ 61#58):

> We as Orthodox Jews work within the halachic system.
> That was my fundamental objection to the attempt to cite 
> archaeological evidence from synagogues of around 2000 years ago.  As 
> I pointed out, many many of these synagogues have idolatrous and pagan 
> motifs as decorations in their mosaics.  If you asked a posek today 
> whether you could incorporate idolatrous or pagan motifs into 
> synagogue decorations, he would analyse the halachic literature, 
> starting with the Mishna and Gemora, through the Rishonim and Achronim 
> and almost certainly would rule that they are forbidden.  The fact 
> that they may have been prevalent in synagogues in the first to fifth 
> centuries CE is completely irrelevant.  It might not be to a posek 
> from the Conservative movement, but if it is not, then that just shows
> some of the differences in the way matters are approached.
> Similarly with the mechitza.  Even if once could prove unquestionably 
> (as you can with the pagan motifs) that no such thing existed in such 
> synagogues, that is not relevant to the halachic process.  It *might* 
> be relevant if you could find an Orthodox community surviving into 
> modern times with a tradition of no mechitza that stretched back for 
> as long as can be remembered - but the reality is that we can't.  
> Every community that we would consider to be following the Orthodox 
> tradition has either not had women in shul at all, or has had a form of
> division of some sort.
> Without that sort of evidence the only other way is to find something 
> in the halachic literature that would seem to permit this.  But no such
> exists.

And Ben Katz replied in MJ 61#59:

> I would respectfully disagree with some of Chana's assertions here,

It is not clear to me which of my assertions (quoted in full above), you are
disagreeing with.

> and this is why the study of history and archeology bother many individuals,
> because it turns out that things were not always as they are presented in 
> the halachic literature, nor as they are presented in the halachic responsa
> today.

I agree that some do seem to be bothered by history and archaeology of this
nature, but I myself am not sure why.  I have no greater problem in
understanding that there were situations in the more distant past that do
not fall within the modern halachic consensus than in knowing that large
swathes of Eastern Europe before the Shoah were not frum, by any standard.  I
agree there are people who seem to feel the need to live in a fantasy land
that the entirety of Eastern Europe Jewry before the Shoah were completely
and utterly Orthodox, but I personally don't feel it.   For my part, the
reality that the people that we, on this list, follow today, were very much
in the minority in Europe by the 1930s does not, to me, delegitimize what
was practiced by the minority we do follow.  Of course, if these people had
disappeared without a trace, then I guess we wouldn't be quoting them today,
and history would be different, but because we have records of their
writings - eg the Mishna Brura, the Aruch HaShulchan etc etc, what they said
continues to matter, and what was said by what was almost certainly the
majority of Jewry matters much less (read any of the great spokesmen of the
Bund recently?  How many of us can even read the Yiddish it was written in!).

> This is why when halachic and other Torah writings are discovered that don't
> seem to pass muster, they are declared forgeries because they do not meet
> current standards of acceptability.   

This is a very different question.  Ie there is the question of what
constitutes the halachic literature that bounds the system that we operate
in, which is what this second sentence discusses, and there is the question
as to what people, indeed many people, may have been doing in a historical
time that has little connection to the present, and that we no longer
understand, except perhaps as part of historical analysis (how many even
remember the heady attraction of Communism, and that was really not so long

> And this is especially a problem for mechitzah, where there is a dearth of
> halachic writing on the subject and archeological evidence to the contrary,
> as has been pointed out.  The fact that all Orthodox shuls today have a 
> mechitzah does not in any way mean that all shuls 1000 years ago had a
> mechitzah,

No, it does not (although the archaeological evidence is from earlier than
that, make it 2000 years ago).  But the point I was making is that what was
done, even commonly done, 1000 or 2000 or 3000 years ago is irrelevant to
the halachic system that we, as Orthodox Jews, subscribe to. It doesn't
matter to us as Orthodox Jews how many worshippers there were of Baal
at the time of Eliyahu, even though the answer seems to be, lots.  It
doesn't matter how many Karaites and Sadduccees and similar there were 1000
years ago or 2000 years ago, respectively, any more than it matters how many
Communists and Bundists there were 80 years ago.  Part of the nature of history
is that a lot of history gets left behind, and the chain of our tradition is
about what managed to continue and to survive.  See it as a survival of the
fittest if you will, or a form of grand design, but while it might be very
interesting to know about Baal worshippers and the Karaites and Sadduccees and
the Bundists, those constitute the road not taken, we are not heirs to those
traditions, and it is not to them that we look, even where the halachic
literature might itself be relatively sparse.

> the same way that one might erroneously assume that because nearly all
> Orthodox Jews today eat glatt that the Rambam ate glatt.  (It's ironic how
> this would mean that many today would not eat in the house of the greatest
> halachacist of the past 1000 years.)

I suspect you mean the Rema, not the Rambam - the Sephardi tradition was
pretty strongly always in favour of glatt, it is the Ashkenazi tradition
that allowed non-glatt.  So let's take a true Rambam example - warming up
soup on shabbas (the Rambam held that ain bishul achar bishul for a d'var
lach [there is no cooking <hence, no violation of a Shabbos prohibition --Mod.> 
after original cooking for a liquid]).  And you are right.  If it were not for 
the Temanim, the Yemenites, then no, nobody today would eat hot soup on shabbas 
like was found in the Rambam's house, because history would have ruled against 
him in the form of the other rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch.  BUT, the Temanim 
continue to follow the Rambam, and so we have a living breathing tradition of 
people who warm soup up on shabbas, so long as it was fully cooked before 
shabbas.  And I have no problem eating such soup in their house.

But part of the belief in the halachic tradition is to believe that even the
Rambam, or at least the other rishonim who do not have behind them a group
who have maintained their practices, would, were they here today, study what
the other Rishonim had to say on various subjects, understand where the
weight of history had gone against them, and would change their practices to
match that of the rest of Jewry as such practices evolved through history.
What would not, however, influence them, is archaeological records which
show that there were practices once upon a time, that may at that time even
have been the norm, but have now fallen away.




From: Harlan Braude <hbraude@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 4,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Praying at home/Talking in shul

In MJ 61#59, Immanuel Burton wrote:

> Does anyone have any comments on whether it is better to pray at home on
> one's own if the only option to pray with a minyan is in a Shul where
> there is unfortunately a degree of talking that one finds distracting

In the 70s, I had a "rebbe" in high school (he was a professor of psychology
at a state university as well as a lamdan [learned in talmud and responsa
literature] who taught chumash to us w/o salary purely for the mitzvah) who
shared with us that he would routinely daven Shabbos Shacharis at home
and arrive for krias haTorah specifically because of the talking that went 
on at that shul (apparently, the only game in town for him at the time).

I don't recall what sources he cited for this practice, if any. It did, however,
leave a lasting impression.

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 5,2012 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Praying at home/Talking in shul

Immanuel Burton asks (MJ 61:59):

> Has anyone come across or devised any methods for reducing the amount of
> talking in Shul that have actually worked?

One technique that works briefly, on a limited scale in a small shul, is to
separate chronic talkers by giving them properly spaced aliyot (e.g., shelishi
and chamishi). I call them "disciplinary aliyot".

And in line with the mechitza thread, a friend who is a gabbai told me that the
best way would be to require men to sit with their wives.


From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 5,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Status of Masorti

> I was invited to the wedding of the son of one of the lay leaders of the
> movement, ... What was even more horrifying was that the said rabbi had
> been assuring people the food would be kosher lemehadrin min hamehadrin [to the
> requirements of the most strictly observant], which was obviously not the
> case....
> From this incident, one can see that even the most observant Masorti tend to
> rely on bedieved kulot [leniencies] as if they were lechatchilah mutar
> [permissible]. 

With all due respect, one cannot malign an entire movement based on a single
incident.  There are plenty of Conservative/Masorti Jews who take kashrut quite
seriously and plenty of Orthodox who are quite lenient.  And I am also not sure
what is meant by the slight to Rabbi Klein and his book.  No specific examples
are even given. I am very familiar with Rabbi Klein's book, and when he is
lenient or follows Conservative religious decisions, he says so openly, and he
is certainly not the only one to search for leniencies.  I have to admit, I am
surprised that the usually careful,  overworked moderators even allowed this
post through as it is.


End of Volume 61 Issue 60